Heat at Pacers (8pm ET Friday, ESPN)
The Miami Heat are 3-2 coming off a 96-84 defeat of the ‘Wolves, in which their starters outscored Minnesota’s 81-29. The game also featured a buzzer beater from beyond half-court at the half by Dwyane Wade, whose 25 points made him one of only six players to have scored at least 20 in every game this season.
The Heat head into Indiana a bit shorthanded as Amar’e Stoudemire’s creaky old knees have limited him to 12 minutes total this season, sixth man Gerald Green remains MIA after being rushed to the hospital Tuesday under mysterious circumstances (head coach Eric Spoelstra would only say he’s “safe and healthy”), and Mario Chalmers has lately been plagued by a sore right knee and persistent trade rumors.
Sixteen months after suffering gruesome compound fractures in both bones in his lower right leg, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George appears ready for another monster season. He’s coming off a 26-10 effort in a 2-point victory over the Boston Celtics, and has been averaging 34.7 minutes a game, though his never-great shooting touch is still lacking. Sorry, Paul, but .359% from the field ain’t gonna get it done in the NBA. The Pacers began their season with three straight losses before winning their last two, against Detroit and Boston, if Paul can just hit 40% from the field, these guys could contend for a playoff spot.
Rockets at Kings (10:30pm ET Friday, ESPN)
After starting the season with losses to Denver, Golden State and Miami, the Rockets have defeated the Thunder and the Magic, and James Harden is laying enough bricks to build another Great Wall. He’s made only 30 of 102 from the floor, including a wince-inducing 9 of 55 (.164%) from 3-point land. At this rate, Harden is on pace to miss more 3-pointers this season (754) than anyone has even attempted in a single season (678). When Harden shoots better than 17% of his 3’s, the Rockets win, when he doesn’t, the Rockets lose – more than coincidence? You decide. What is known is that Harden is cursed. No, really.
Following an injury-plagued 2014 season, Dwight Howard is slowly getting back into shape, as he’s only played three of the Rockets' five games, and has yet to play on back-to-back days, thus far averaging 16 points and 9.7 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game.
The Sacramento Kings are 1-4, with their sole victory coming over the still-winless Lakers, and they’re allowing a league-high .504 shooting percentage, a fact made all the more painful because they’re #2 in pace of game – when your opponent has a lot of possessions and makes a lot of their shots, science shows that they will score a lot of points. The Kings will likely be without the services of big man DeMarcus Cousins, who’s dealing with a strained Achilles. Given that Cousins is both the Kings’ leading scorer and rebounder, this could make for an unfair fight. You just know that Dwight Howard is somewhere giggling nervously right now.